Dr. Brent Logan, PhD., the self-esteemed neurogeneticist/psychologist, is the inventor of the BabyPlus Prenatal Education System, the only prenatal rhythm sequencer-on-a-beltpack endorsed by both 02138 Magazine: The World of Harvard AND famous pregnancy expert Nicole Richie.
Logan invented the system in the 1980's after reading about some genius babies in People magazine whose parents played music for them in the womb. He's been marketing it to successive generations of well-meaning new parents around the world since the dawn of the Walkman era.
Last month on Daddy Types, I pointed out--for the first time in print, or at least in Google-able print, apparently--that the ever-shifting constellation of claims made by BabyPlus amounted to unverifiable pseudo-science, and that the company and Logan--same thing, really--puts on a tremendously misleading show of scientific legitimacy that's designed to tease $149 out of well-intentioned-but-clueless expecting parents.
[The details are in the original post, but the tactics include: citing unaccredited journals with scientifical-sounding names; padding the BabyPlus "bibliography" with multiple references to the same publication or conference appearance; claiming "presentations" to university faculty members as proof of the BabyPlus claims; and setting up a one-man "Prenatal Institute" in his house to create the aura of official, independent validation. Also, the guy Logan got the idea from says all his best inventions were the result of a visit to an alien spaceship.]
Once DT became the top Google search result for "BabyPlus + Harvard", I expected I'd hear from Dr. Logan, and last night, I did. He pointed out 10 "errors" in my original post, which I responded to individually. For clarity and entertainment's sake, I have reproduced them from the comment thread below. Enjoy.
[Note: The first plug for his self-published book, Learning Before Birth: Every Child Deserves Giftedness, available at Amazon for $14.50, is made in Error #3.]
The August 30 blog about BabyPlus, my developmental technology, contains numerous errors, corrected in sequence as follows:Great. I never said they were compensated or solicited. Richie appears to have spent actual money on the product, but it's common practice in the baby industry to "gift" products to celebrities in hopes that they'll mention or be seen with them. This should be news to absolutely no one who's been in a supermarket checkout line.
1. For many years celebrities have utilized BabyPlus during their pregnancy. No testimonials were or are solicited, therefore public statements about the product by any individual are entirely voluntary.
2. In August 1982, People magazine and other media carried stories about the Susedik children, all of whom were several years advanced in schooling, and had experienced a range of sonic stimulation in the womb--but also received intensive postnatal enrichment. Whatever its cause, the consistency of their verified abilities caught my attention as an educator: The father's other interests were not at issue, rather the remarkable achievements of his offspring.Again, fine, but not really disputed. The fact remains that Logan's BabyPlus founding myth as repeated to various published accounts over 20+ years begins with a guy who claimed aliens turned him into a prolific inventor. You could argue that this is utterly irrelevant. Or if you were skeptical of the near-miraculous claims being made by the inventor of BabyPlus, this may have a non-trivial resonance.
3. As detailed in my book, Learning Before Birth: Every Child Deserves Giftedness, the BabyPlus history profiles rigorous science: a comprehensive theory which includes an explanatory mechanism supported by decades of studies from the mainstream academic community, a pilot assessment under obstetric supervision with parents from diverse socioeconomic backgrounds--its results subjected to computer analyses of empirical birth data against published norms--a comparative, controlled, independent clinical trial monitored for standardized cognitive and social skills over nine years, impoverished and single mothers included, by a physician team of developmental specialists, with all aspects of these components appearing in peer-reviewed professional journals.Set aside my cynicism at the idea that If parents-to-be want to see the actual proof, they should buy Logan's book AND THEN buy the gear on top of it. If such persuasive, documented, and accredited scientific proof for the various claims made by BabyPlus really IS in Logan's book, I would suggest putting some of it on the BabyPlus site.
The claims made by BabyPlus--I included just nine [in the original post], and the specifics vary significantly over time and across different non-scientific media--include the somewhat measurable [e.g., more relaxed, longer attention span] to the mushy subjective [e.g., nurses more readily, improved school readiness].
The real problem here--which Logan does not mention--is that almost every claimed benefit of the BabyPlus system as well as the underlying theories of synapse stimulation and fetal brain cell preservation are inherently untestable under the mainstream medical scientific community's standards. i.e., you can't conduct research on fetuses.
The postnatal effects, meanwhile could theoretically be identified by statistical correlation studies, the kind that show connections, but not "causes" per se. The methodology for these types of studies is widely understood and accepted. It's used to identify the relationship between TV watching and violent behavior; or between Bisphenol A and behavioral problems and childhood obesity. [Good thing there's nothing controversial about that.]
The result is a scientific credibility gap which is filled with the essentially unmeasurable and hence unverifiable, subjective claims on BabyPlus's site; the misleading, pseudo-scientific exercises of unaccredited promotional groups like APPPAH [see below, 10:56 comment]; and a heavy reliance on dramatic personal anecdotes and testimonials. If it were just a bunch of moms singing "I love BabyPlus," that'd be fine; instead, this unverifiable anecdotery is all dressed up with the trappings of scientific legitimacy that don't withstand scrutiny. This resonates--unintentionally, I'm sure--with Logan's offer to test the BabyPlus ourselves. "Try it, you'll like it" is an appeal from the world of taste, not science.
4. The integrity of this discovery's coverage in major venues such as the New York Times, London Times, Wall Street Journal, Time, CNN, BBC, and The Learning Channel, among hundreds of reports by equally credentialed media (all listed on www.babyplus.com and www.brentlogan.net), speaks for itself.I totally agree, though I think I also totally disagree with Logan on what it says. I didn't search Nexis, but I couldn't find a single published article questioning or even examining the BabyPlus's scientific claims in depth; they all accepted Logan's expert [sic] explanations unchallenged or merely reported them as his "beliefs" and let the credentials do the persuading. Here's The Manila Times, circa 1996:
Logan heads the BabyPlus Company and has conducted neurogenetic research at the Prenatal Institute in Washington since 1982. Among his findings were that newborn babies lose a significantcant amount of brain cells due to stress. Through sonic stimulation, Logan believes that this natural brain cell death will be minimized. Sonic stimulation's other benefits: long attention spans, parental voice recognition at birth, increased physical strength, early coordination and walking, and early language acquisition.
Significantly, I never found any articles that discussed the Prenatal Institute, either. It's either a devastating reflection on the state of popular science reporting or damning evidence of the perceived irrelevance of the BabyPlus's claims that no one's apparently bothered to factcheck a story on them in 20 years.
5. 10,000 BabyPlus units were contributed to China, 5000 to Russia, and 500 to an innercity Indianapolis program--not audiocassete tapes but microchip sound generators--with 22 non-franchised distributorships worldwide, accounting for 150,000 births to date, including multiple usage; the oldest advantaged youths are now age 20.Fine. details not in the BabyPlus literature. Here's a 1990 report from a publication called "Hospital Doctor":
Uncomfortable births and unhappy babies could be a thing of the past if the methods of a US psychologist are as effective as he claims.Grand, unsubstantiated claims for a product called Babytapes? Speaks for itself, I guess.
Dr. Brent Logan, from Washington, has produced a set of tapes which, he says, reduce complications in pregnancy by stimulating the fetal nervous system.
Fitted into a belt worn around a pregnant woman’s abdomen, the cassettes, called Babytapes, produce cardiac-like sounds which become more complex as pregnancy progresses.
6. Prenatal Institute, a nonprofit Washington State corporation, was founded in 1983, maintains a Seattle address, has affiliate operations in five countries, and since 1995 actively occupies one-third of a 3000-square-foot facility; its charter specifies neurogenetic research and development, addressing a wide range of projects besides BabyPlus.So I was right, except in my characterization of a 3000-sf house as "small." duly noted.
7. My peer-reviewed articles have been published in the International Journal of Prenatal and Perinatal Psychology and Medicine, The Royal College of General Practitioners Official Reference Book, Prenatal Perception, Learning, and Bonding, Prenatal and Perinatal Psychology and Medicine, Prenatal Psychology News, and the Pre and Perinatal Psychology Journal; the latter organ's professional organization, the Association for Prenatal and Perinatal Psychology and Health has for over two decades been comprised of leading psychologists, psychiatrists, physicians, pediatricians, neuroscientists, educators, and nurses, all pioneering a completely new field of research which, like any scientific advance, is being steadily acknowledged by the traditional community of colleagues. Congress presentations of my work and their corresponding publication are both cited because the former--usually available shortly thereafter on recordings--are often supplemented in later print by further findings which attendees wish to review.
see the 10:56pm comment below [which points out that the peers doing the reviewing for most of those publications are fellow quacks who can't find anywhere legitimate to publish their unscientific research, either]. On the APPPAH issue, I swear, I'm not one of those white-lab-coated curmudgeons who covers his ears if it doesn't come from the American Academy of Pediatrics.
But for the same two decades, the mainstream academic/scientific/medical community has been shunning the APPPAH, which does not help its credibility. Neither, frankly, does the wildly unprofessional ramble that comprises the APPPAH's history. With its boosterish tones and ubiquitous obsession with the question of acceptance of prenatal psychology, the APPPAH's website seems to me like little more than an advocacy group, craving scientific legitimacy. BabyPlus's claims are all made in scientific terms when, in fact, they stem from this remarkably uncritical, self-interested organization of true believers. That a conference full of psychologists can't see this is frankly baffling to me.
As for the Royal College of General Practitioners Official Reference Book, here is what Helen Farrelly, the Publications Manager for the RCGP wrote:
Thank you for your enquiry regarding the article entitled “Fetal Sonic Stimulation” by Dr Brent Logan, which appeared in members’ yearbook entitled the Members’ Reference Book, an annual review-type publication for members of the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP). This publication ceased in 2002...Indeed. Perhaps Dr. Logan would like to provide a scan of the unreviewed article he wrote running next to the ad he paid for. Perhaps there is also a Yellow Pages ad for BabyPlus that adds further support.
This article was review-type in style and would thus not be subjected to a rigid peer review process in the manner that articles based on original research would be. The author was an employee of the Prenatal Institute, the manufacturer of the BabyPlus product featured in the article at the time the article was written. The article was accompanied by an ad for the product in question.
The RCGP cannot therefore comment on the accuracy or independence of findings of this article. Whether this article constitutes sufficient evidence in support of the author’s or manufacturer’s claims is also not a matter that the College can be called to comment on and this is something that you should seek to address by other means.
8. Linguistic differences and cultural interests reflect how BabyPlus is characterized in various countries; these descriptions merely address local priorities rather than alter the innovation's essence.The claims I cite are all in English, which eliminates the notion of linguistic differences. If the "innovation's essence" were actually measurable, demonstrable data, I would expect a lot less "cultural interest"-specific characterizations. On the other hand, if I had a product to sell, I'd try and figure out what the right local parental buttons to push were, and then claim hey, that's exactly what my product does! What're the odds?
9. Along with software copyrights and tradenames, my BabyPlus patenting process began in 1986 with its initial application, supported by provision to the United States Patent Office of professional papers, videocassettes, and media reports so that appropriate evaluation of the invention could proceed; the finally-issued patents referenced even remote--but not conflicting--prior art, which is a required part of any intellectual property's search for precedence; issuance of the key patents finally took place in 2002 and 2006.Again, yes. The prior art in question includes multiple sonic/audio fetal stimulation devices and belts. What I just noticed was that the claims in the patent are actually for treatment of "accelerating or decelerating cortical alpha rhythms" in a "postnatal human" or "premature baby." Which appears to me to have nothing at all to do with intrauterine development at all. But then, in addition to not being a neurogenetic psychologist, I'm also not a patent lawyer.
The fact remains that the filing date on the patent was Feb 8, 2002. Does that mean there was an initial application filed in 1986 which was withdrawn or rejected?
10. Commercialization of BabyPlus did not commence until 1989, seven years after my theory was postulated, and four years from the onset of testing.ok.
Had the blog's author read my seminal articles--appearing in their entirety on www.brentlogan.net--the independent clinical trial publication on www.babyplus.com, my book, Learning Before Birth, Sarah Brewer's Super Baby (herself an M.D. who used BabyPlus), or Armin Brott's The Expectant Father, the above emendations would have been unnecessary. But becoming informed about any genuine breakthrough requires effort beyond the superficial, and this opportunity to respond factually is much appreciated.I approached BabyPlus as a consumer/parent would, researching and characterizing the claims made on the BabyPlus site, the articles cited and reproduced on BabyPlus, and I then followed up by researching the claimed independent scientific validation of the BabyPlus technology. All of these were found severely lacking, unpersuasive, or misleading in their characterization as detailed [in the original "Stupid Parents" post].
Brent Logan, Ph.D., Director
Prenatal Institute, Seattle
In addition, I took the step of tracking down the one remaining legitimate-sounding citation on the BabyPlus site, the RCGP Handbook, and while I'm still waiting to receive a hard copy of the article--and the BabyPlus ad running with it--the RCGP's characterization of the Handbook in no way matches the context in which BabyPlus cites it, i.e., as scientifically recognized validation of the company's claims.
I just can't see how a scientific or medical claim can be put forward for a product and then supported by "read my book, read my self-published white paper where I find my theories and claims to be valid." What of BabyPlus's claimed benefits are supported by Sarah Brewer and Armin Brott? There's no mention of Brott's endorsement on the BabyPlus site, is there?
And finally--for the moment--this comment: "But becoming informed about any genuine breakthrough requires effort beyond the superficial" is exactly why I took the effort to look at the superficially scientific-sounding claims BabyPlus has been making, because once you look more closely, they fall apart, or at least turn out to be much much less than "scientific."
And yet, they rely on a combination of perceived authority, credentials, shallow media recitations, and misrepresentations of scientific validity to dupe unsuspecting parents into throwing away $150--plus the cost of the book.
While I was writing these, Dr. Logan responded several additional times in the comments, all/most in a similar fashion, including this request for my credentials "if any" to question BabyPlus's claims:
...For the sake of veracity try to avoid ad hominem arguments, and feel free to query me before posting if you want yours to be an investigation demonstrating fairness. Also, I might suggest that should you personally like to evaluate BabyPlus--in your family or with friends or associates--please let me know and I will see that you receive a unit, gratis. Finally, to demonstrate we are being absolutely up front, your full name and credentials--if any--would be appropriate.Personally, I find an over-emphasis of credentials--which, as we see, can be easily conjured up and distorted--to be part of the problem with BabyPlus and their ilk, but I complied to Dr. Logan's request. I will point out I killed on the SAT.